If you are not familiar with the New York not-for-profit organization that supports Black theater by making sure to let audiences know about the shows and recognizing productions with the VIV Award, then you need to know about the AUDELCO Awards, which stands for Audience Development Committee. This vital organization is part of the reason for the continued life that Black theater companies in New York enjoy.
The person at the helm of this vital organization is Grace L. Jones, the president of AUDELCO. The work that Jones does has been rightly recognized, and she is being awarded a great honor this summer, which she well deserves. The National Black Theatre Festival, held every two years in Winston Salem, S.C., is honoring her with the Living Legend Award. The festival will occur Aug. 3 through Aug. 8, with Jones being honored at the opening night gala Monday evening. Anyone who knows Jones realizes how marvelous and on-time this award is for her. She recently sat down and spoke with AmNews about the award and her work with the AUDELCO.
AmNews: How did you find out that you are being honored with the Living Legend Award at this summer’s National Black Theatre Festival?
Jones: I received a letter from Sylvia Sprinkle Hamlin, executive producer of the 2015 National Black Theatre Festival. The next day I received a phone call verifying the particulars involved with the honor.
How did you feel when you first heard the news?
When I first read the invitation, my heart skipped a beat, I re-read the invitation. Before I could think clearly, I started to scream—primal is not the word—then tears started to flow.
How long have you been the president of AUDELCO?
I have been president since 2005. I officially joined AUDELCO in the early 1980s.
Prior to being the president, how long were you part of AUDELCO and what was your role?
I did theater parties with Mary B. Davis and Renee Chenowith. I volunteered my services to help promote AUDELCO, hence A Touch of Grace and Associates joined team AUDELCO.
Vivian Robinson was like a sister. I loved her madly. She had class, style and a great sense of humor. I was so honored when, one evening, she called me at home and asked, “Amazing, do you have time to chat?” That’s when I knew I was accepted by the lady herself. My membership included an event planner, secretary and vice president of AUDELCO. I often spoke at public school auditoriums and special events at the Apollo representing AUDELCO.
Why is AUDELCO a blessing to the Black theatrical community? What do you do to help our people?
In 1973, Vivian Robinson, founder of AUDELCO, expressed the importance of establishing a tradition of honoring and applauding our own artistry. Since that time, AUDELCO, this nonprofit organization, has become a leader in the support and promotion of Black theater. I reach out into the community. I use television, cable television, newspapers, radio programs, college radio programs, senior centers and, last but not least, churches.
How long have you attended the National Black Theatre Festival?
I have been attending the National Black Theatre Festival since 2005. In 2007, AUDELCO threw an open house party at our suite in order to get more people who lived in or visited New York City to come and visit our AUDELCO office. We played games and enjoyed light refreshments.
What is your favorite part about going to this event?
My favorite part about attending the festival is the anticipation of who will I see on the plane. Will they be friendly? Then we take off for the blue skies of Winston-Salem. When we land, it’s meet and greet with actors from the Caribbean, U.K. and all over the United States and Canada. During the week, if you stand still long enough, you will see over 60,000 people pass by. Last but not least is the drummers—you just want to sway to the beat.
Why should the public support AUDELCO and the National Black Theatre Festival?
The reason for supporting AUDELCO is that the VIV Awards are open to the community, enabling them to be part of the history-making event at a nominal cost. This even builds community interest in the performing arts. The VIV Awards are widely publicized through print media, mailing of invitations, use of palm cards, public access TV, radio, placement on our website and through the use of a public relations team. Revenue derived from this event is used to offset the cost of renting the venue at the Symphony Space/Peter Norton Theatre. This event allows AUDELCO to bring all of New York City’s not-for-profit off-Broadway theatre community together in one place for one celebratory evening.